The Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) in response to complaints about the quality and authenticity of cheese sold on the local market conducted a survey of cheese products at selected retail outlets. Conformity assessment analyses were carried out on samples of prepackaged cheese as well as bulk cheese which are repackaged locally for sale.
The analysis was conducted in accordance with internationally accepted test methods for the following principal parameters of interest: milk fat, moisture, yeast, mold and total coliform. The authenticity of the cheese products was verified against the requirements of the international CODEX Standards for Cheese, CODEX STAN 283-1978 General Standard for Cheese and CODEX STAN 263 – 1966 Codex Standard for Cheddar.
The conformity assessment confirmed the authenticity of random samples which represent a segment of the products on the market. Results showed no evidence of food fraud (or fake /plastic cheese).
The results indicated adverse analytical findings for the parameters of yeast and mold in products that were repackaged for sale while there were no adverse analytical findings in the samples of prepackaged cheese with all parameters within acceptable limits.
Unacceptable levels of yeast and mold in the cheese are indicative of poor storage and handling practices which can occur from processing, storage, distribution and final handling by the consumer.
SLBS will continue to monitor the compliance to standards of food products on market based on determined risk levels. Retailers have been advised of the findings and recommendations for addressing the incidents of yeast and mold in repackaged cheese.
The SLBS wishes to remind the public that food handlers play an important part in ensuring food safety. SLBS continues to promote training and awareness of food safety and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) for food handlers to mitigate the risk of food borne illnesses. Retailers, manufacturers and caterers are encouraged to take advantage of training being offered.
Consumers should report incidents of non-adherence to proper hygiene practices. The public is encouraged to contact the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards at 758 456-0102, 453 – 0049 or 456 – 0546 to report standards and quality related issues of food products on market.